Saturday, May 19, 2012

Car Dreams

In two years my car will be old enough to vote.  But my car dreams are not about finding a replacement or trying to figure out how to live without a car.  That part is taken care with the rational part of my brainz.

My dreams are about something different.  For instance, I have always wanted a car that could be shrunk to a little attache case on wheels for parking purposes.  Or alternatively, a car which has retractable stork legs which grow out of the bottom when the car needs to be parked.  Then one could just hop across all the parked cars and settle somewhere on the second floor so to speak.

And even before car manufacturers installed balloons in cars I thought that external balloons would be a great idea, as a form of defense against butt-flies and other careless drivers in traffic.  They would have been transparent balloons naturally.

A different set of dreams has to do with desiring a BMW.   Eat my smoke!

And the memory of the one time I  test-drove a 1950s Daimler.  It had real burl walnut in the dashboard...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Getting Something For Nothing. David Brooks.

Want to hear something funny?  I started reading David Brooks from the other end, with this:
Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.
And I thought:  Wow, the guy is advocating regulation of the financial markets, finally!   I must give him credit when the credit is due.

Then, of course, I read the column in the proper order and it's just Brooks' usual missive from an Alternative Reality where Democrats are selfish and greedy and Republicans are not at all selfish or greedy.

In that Reality the past was gold-tinted and wore rosy-but-firm spectacles on its pinched nose.  In that Reality this was true:
The American founders did this by decentralizing power. They built checks and balances to frustrate and detain the popular will. They also dispersed power to encourage active citizenship, hoping that as people became more involved in local government, they would develop a sense of restraint and responsibility.
 They dispersed power?  To land-owning white men, if I remember correctly.

The whole column is preposterous.   As Charlie Pierce states, Brooks deserves to be pelted with rotting fish for that one.  Because that wasn't unknown in the actual real history of Europe and the United States which has very little to do with the Alternative History Brooks posits at the beginning of his fable.

I really should do a write-like-David-Brooks day.

This is Funny. About Advertising

Men are not necessarily portrayed well in advertising, either.  But it's certainly true that the advertisers haven't succeeded in making men sufficiently insecure about everything yet.

Thanks to knuckles for the link.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Violence As A Form of Pronography*

This is almost too common to write about, though I have written about the Missing. White. Young. Pretty. Women.  phenomenon before.  It's very complicated, racist, ageist, lookist and myth-based.   But it does NOT mean (as some misogynists say) that women are somehow valued as human beings  more than men, at least if they are white, young and pretty.

I'm used to those stories by now.  Still,  (WARNING)  this is truly horrible:
She was found still wearing the shimmering silver cocktail number she wore to celebrate her wedding. She was as bright as the sequins on that dress. Young. Beautiful.
But within two days of saying, "I do," she was dead.
Police officers in the suburban Chicago town of Burbank found Estrella Carrera, 26, in the bathtub of the condominium she planned to share with Arnoldo Jimenez, 30. She had been stabbed multiple times.
"This was a brutal murder," Capt. Joe Ford, spokesman for the Burbank Police Department, said Wednesday. "There is some aggression, obviously."
*Misspelled in the hope that this doesn't catch in the filters


I never post about shoes!  Well, except to point out that one should be able to walk in them without permanent back trouble and without cutting off spare toes which stick out and without tottering like someone not used to stilt-walking yet.
But these are very funny.

From Saying Yes

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Even Dolphins Gang-Rape!

I missed all those popularizations about the raping gay  dolphins:
Dolphins have been defamed. Six weeks ago, the Daily Mail informed us about The dark side of Flipper: He's a sexual predator who resorts to rape to get his way.
And the Daily Telegraph also told a similar tale: "according to scientists", dolphins resort to "rape" to assert authority.
Other news outlets around the world carried similar reports. Examples: bisexual and exclusively gay dolphins (MSN); male dolphins are bisexual, US scientists claim (Australia's News Ltd); and male bottlenose dolphins engage in extensive bisexuality (ZeeNews, India).

Anyone who has read my litanies about how science is popularized knows why The Daily Male Mail would print that popularization or why the Daily Telegraph would follow suit.

Many popularizations popularize stuff that's not in the initial study, of course.   But this one is really an extreme example because the particular paper did not discuss rape or homosexuality in dolphins:

Are you kidding me? If the ‘writers’ of these articles had read the paper, they would have noticed that it contains nothing about the sexual behaviour of the dolphins they studied, bisexual or otherwise, aside from brief mentions of the possible consequences of social networks on reproductive success. It certainly didn’t mention anything about bisexual behaviour, homosexual behaviour, or rape.

That's good advice, about actually reading the paper one summarizes and popularizes.

What's instructive about this case is that it tells us so very clearly WHY certain studies get popularized and many others do not.  That this particular study had nothing (or very little) to do with the sexual behavior of dolphins doesn't matter at all.

A study twenty years ago has argued that dolphin bulls engage in behavior which to humans looks like gang-rape:
Richard Connor and other colleagues showed, almost 20 years ago that male dolphins work in alliances to cut a female off from the pod and coerce her into mating. It's a behaviour that forever associated male dolphins with the human idea of 'gang rape.'

The other side of the dolphin story illustrates my point. Dolphin bulls behave like gang rapists, harassing solitary females until, exhausted, the female copulates with one or all of the males.
Perhaps the similarities with the most repellent coalitional behavior among men are merely superficial. Perhaps they run deeper than that. That makes a fascinating question to be researched. Sensitively. But no matter what the findings, what dolphin males do in Shark Bay doesn't make that kind of behavior any more acceptable in men.
It's unclear to me how often this behavior has been observed, whether it is common or unusual and whether the observer's interpretation of it is correct.   But it was reported in a study twenty years ago, not in the study this past spring.


Repeat After Me: A Government Is Not A Business. A Government Is Not A Family. A Government Is A Government.

OK, that sounds a bit shrill.  But I'm fed up with the argument that having an MBA or experience in running a private firm (sometimes to ground) is useful for those who would like to be the president of a country.   I'm equally fed up with the argument that just like a family, the government must do belt-tightening when times are bad.

A country is not a corporation (yet) and a country is not a family.

There are good economic and other reasons why we don't run families like corporations or corporations like families, and there are even better reasons for not running a government like a firm or a family.

Though often it does sound as if conservative politicians want to be like those old-fashioned economists who were reputed to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Bubba Carpenter Teaches Women Morals

This is about abortion, of course:
Via Rachel Maddow:
"It's going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all -- but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to--  Roe vs. Wade. So we've done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They're like, 'Well, the poor pitiful women that can't afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger. That's what we've learned over and over and over.'
"But hey, you have to have moral values."

Sounds like Bubba is soo tired of hearing about those coat hangers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obama, The First Girl President

Via Digby, I read a piece Dana Milbanks wrote about that:
Nonsense. Obama is not the first gay president. He is the first female president.
Consider his activities on Monday: He sat down to tape a session with the ladies of ABC’s “The View” — his fourth appearance on the talk show by women and for (mostly) women. He accepted an award from Barnard College and gave the commencement speech to graduates of the women’s school. Heck, he even appeared in public wearing a gown.
Obama was still early in his address when he acknowledged that his praise for the young generation of women is “a cheap applause line when you’re giving a commencement at Barnard.”
But Obama was being modest. He didn’t deliver a cheap applause line. He delivered an entire speech full of them. His reelection campaign has been working for months to exploit the considerable gender gap, which puts him far ahead of likely GOP rival Mitt Romney among women. But Monday’s activities veered into pandering, as Obama brazenly flaunted his feminine mystique.
He speculated that “Congress would get a lot more done” if more women were there. He speculated that, although no women signed the Constitution, “we can assume that there were founding mothers whispering smarter things in the ears of the founding fathers.”
He announced that “more and more women are out-earning their husbands. You’re more than half of our college graduates and master’s graduates and PhDs.” He told them that they are “poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world.”
And they can look good doing it! “You can be stylish and powerful, too,” he said. “That’s Michelle’s advice.” The first lady, the couple’s two daughters, and the president’s mother and mother-in-law had recurring roles as “strong, remarkable women” in the speech.
Stories like this one have a history, of course.  Bill Clinton was called the first black president and, as Milbank, notes the Newsweek  calls Obama the first gay president.

Still, I sense something slightly different in this writeup.  Obama's "feminine mystique?"  "Even appeared in public wearing a gown?"  Well, the Pope does, every day, and nobody calls him the first female Pope.  (I crack myself up here.) 

Imagine corresponding references to the first gay president, say.

No.  This one needs to be read against the proper cultural background, and that is all about how some men (don't know how many but enough for me to learn this on the Internet) dis other men:  By implying that they are really women. 

Thus, Milbank's writeup doesn't only discuss the purported topic of his post (which is the political gender gap).  It also disses Obama as not quite a man, as something clearly below a man.  That is the case whether Milbank intended it to be or not.  Though I suspect he did intend it, given his past history.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Fund-Raising Plea

It's that time of the year again!  If you enjoy the posts here  consider contributing to the survival of the blog.  Don't give if you have little.  And thanks to those of you who already have contributed.

Keeping this thing going takes a huge amount of time and energy which I can't use for money-making endeavors.  Otherwise I wouldn't beg.

A picture to make you want to contribute:

Thanks to all who read here.

On Citizens United: How Every Dollar Became Equal in Politics

Jeffrey Toobin has written about the role of Chief Justice John Roberts in the decision which made it legal for any rich person to buy elections anywhere in  this country,  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  The article, in the New Yorker,  is well worth reading.  A snippet:
In one sense, the story of the Citizens United case goes back more than a hundred years. It begins in the Gilded Age, when the Supreme Court barred most attempts by the government to ameliorate the harsh effects of market forces. In that era, the Court said, for the first time, that corporations, like people, have constitutional rights. The Progressive Era, which followed, saw the development of activist government and the first major efforts to limit the impact of money in politics. Since then, the sides in the continuing battle have remained more or less the same: progressives (or liberals) vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans, regulators vs. libertarians. One side has favored government rules to limit the influence of the moneyed in political campaigns; the other has supported a freer market, allowing individuals and corporations to contribute as they see fit. Citizens United marked another round in this contest.
Yes.  Except that there is no such thing as a free market of ideas if by "free" we mean a market where everybody  can enter equally easy and where everybody can be heard without any payment required and where everybody can get the same size audience without any need for millions of dollars of money.

That is the basic problem with the Citizens United decision and its consequences:  It gives people political power in direct proportion to their wealth.   Thus,  Chief Justice Roberts explicitly wants to trade real democracy for the power of established moneyed interests when he states this:
As Kennedy had in Citizens United, Roberts said that governments could never take steps to equalize opportunities for candidates in electoral contests. “ ‘Leveling the playing field’ can sound like a good thing,” he wrote. “But in a democracy, campaigning for office is not a game. It is a critically important form of speech. The First Amendment embodies our choice as a Nation that, when it comes to such speech, the guiding principle is freedom—the ‘unfettered interchange of ideas.’ ” The Roberts Court, it appears, will guarantee moneyed interests the freedom to raise and spend any amount, from any source, at any time, in order to win elections.
As an aside, I notice that the officers of Citizens United are all men.

And in Wisconsin, the Nazgûl Governor Still Rules

More Nazgûl news about Scott Walker, the ringwraith governor of Wisconsin:
In Waukesha County, Walker also dismissed calls by Democratic Party of Wisconsin that the governor provide details on why he set up a criminal defense fund as part of the ongoing John Doe investigation of Walker's aides while he was county executive.
"Gov. Walker is the only governor in this nation who has a criminal defense fund. The only governor. And he is stonewalling this state and he is stonewalling the media by refusing time and time again to answer who's paying the tens of thousands of dollars in a legal-defense fund for himself, and I don't know who else he is paying for."
The linked article also talks about the terrible unemployment record of governor Walker's rule in Wisconsin.  I think the money comes from Sauron.  But what do I know.